12/12/12 -- Not-so-great 12s in Clippers history

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

To say that Eric Bledsoe may already be the greatest Clippers player ever to wear the number 12 is not really saying a lot.

Someone at SBNation suggested that on the occasion of December 12, 2012 (12/12/12) we should consider writing something twelve-y. I thought the idea was pretty lame quite honestly -- until I looked at the list of Los Angeles Clippers to have worn the number 12, which is just too weird to ignore.

12s in Clippers Franchise History

Jim Washington (1975-1976)
Claude Terry (1977)
Ted McClain (1978)
Nick Weatherspoon (1979-1980)
Rory White (1984)
Dwayne Polee (1987)
Eric White (1988-1989)
Andre Turner (1990)
Jim Les (1990)
Torgeir Bryn (1990)
Al Thornton (2008-2010)
Eric Bledsoe (2011-2013)

What a mess that list is.

First of all, how bizarre is it that no one wore the number 12 from Torgeir Bryn in 1990 until Al Thornton in 2008? That almost two full decades without a 12 on the roster, and it's not as if 12 is that unusual a number for a basketball jersey. (Traditionally in American basketball, uniforms featured the digits from zero to five so that referees could easily signal the uniform number of the player committing a foul with one hand. So to not have a lot of 16s is understandable, but an 18 year gap between 12s is strange.)

Secondly, look at all those one-and-done Clipper-12s. Three different guys in 1990 alone! Prior to Thornton, the all-time games record for a Clipper wearing the number 12 was held by the unforgettable Nick Weatherspoon, who appeared in 179 games in San Diego. Rory White (who was an assistant coach for the Clippers on Mike Dunleavy's staff) played four seasons for the Clippers, but switched from 12 to 22 after his first season. Not sure why White didn't take 22 from the beginning -- it's not likely that Hutch Jones had priority for that number in 1984.

The next anomaly on the list might not be obvious to most people but it jumped off the page at me -- two different Pepperdine Waves wore the number 12 for the Clippers. Dwayne Polee and Eric White were stars on Jim Harrick's WCC-dominant mid-80s Waves teams, and in fact were teammates in Malibu for three seasons. I was a Junior at Pepperdine when White and Polee arrived (Polee transferred from UNLV) and watched them intently during their Pepperdine careers. I always figured that Polee would be a pretty good pro, but in fact his NBA career lasted six minutes of garbage time in a blowout loss in the third game of the 86-87 season. Dwayne Polee Jr. is now a key reserve on the highly ranked San Diego State team after transferring from St. John's.

It's also hard to ignore the name Torgeir Bryn on that list of Clippers to have worn 12. Fans of NBA trivia surely know that Bryn was the only NBA player born in Norway. He appeared in 3 games early in the 1989 season and was never heard from again.

Things are finally looking up for the number 12 in Clippers history now that it's being worn by the unstoppable force that is Eric Bledsoe. Thornton wore the number for 201 games in his three seasons in L.A. If Bledsoe stays healthy and plays in all 82 regular season games this year that will give him 203 games as a Clipper-12. Even if he doesn't get there this year, he'll surely break the Clipper-12 games record next year.

He's clearly the most talented Clipper ever to wear the number, with apologies to Al (and Nick Weatherspoon of course). It remains to be seen if he'll remain a Clipper-12 for long enough to establish a lasting legacy for the number, but let's hope so.

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